By Juliet Thornton

Without having any idea what it was, I began to suffer with a wide range of symptoms from the age of about 44. I felt constantly exhausted, low in mood and lacking in motivation to do anything about it. In fact, during a particularly busy work period I remember feeling like I was dying! Standing in the shower after yet another sweaty and restless night I can remember thinking this is all too much; I couldn’t see how I was going to cope with the working week ahead, and yet I was too frightened to go to the Dr, because I had convinced myself I had some incurable disease or that I was going mad and nothing could be done to help me! The word menopause was rarely used back then, and all I knew was that it was something to do with hot sweats, and ‘old ladies’ whose periods were stopping.

Fast forward a very challenging decade, seeing numerous Drs for a variety of different physical and mental health issues. I tried a variety of HRT combinations but I was still struggling with some extreme symptoms, so I eventually paid for an online consultation with a Menopause trained specialist – this was the best thing I did! The first thing they gave me was a long list of the possible peri and menopause symptoms – I ticked almost all of them! This was an eye opener, joined the dots and explained many of the physical and emotional issues I had struggled with for years!  The consultation also provided a letter for my own GP with some clear guidance on recommended care, and gave me the confidence to quote the NICE guidelines about a patient’s right to being part of the decision making with HRT, and the ongoing support and medication I needed.

This began a much better period of support and eventually I found a GP with some recent training, and after a long wait I saw an NHS Specialist who was also incredibly helpful. This year I have become more settled with a Estradot patch and Mirena coil. I do still struggle with fatigue, low moods and some aches and pains with arthritis in fingers and joints, but the debilitating anxiety, suicidal thoughts and depression has thank fully passed and all my physical symptoms are so much better.

For so many women, the ‘Peri’ section of Menopause can be like a confusing rollercoaster ride, with symptoms coming and going with unpredictable force. Add this to the general stresses of life with careers, kids, husbands, and running a home and it’s no surprise so many women find the 40-50’s pretty hard to navigate. The substantial numbers of women whose marriages breakdown at this stage of life are becoming better known thanks to surveys conducted by several Menopause campaign groups. Added to this, there is relatively new research showing the huge number of women who can no longer function and hold down careers and jobs on which so many rely. At my age I never expected to become an activist, but I am appalled at the lack of research, funding, knowledge and support offered to 50% of the population who go through this complicated and deeply personal stage in life. Last year I attended a rally in London, and I speak to men and women everywhere I go, to share evidence based knowledge and eradicate the taboo! I will continue to make sure my daughters generation don’t have to suffer in silence like my grandmothers and to an extent my mother’s generation!

Having done some research into Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy with a friend who has MS, I began to think it might have some benefits for me too. The human body is cleverly designed to self-heal over time, and this therapy is able to assist and speed up our own repair system. There is plenty of evidence to show that adding oxygen (under pressure) helps with inflammation, relieves pain and helps both cogitative clarity and tissue repair. The added benefit of faster repair of damaged skin cells and helping lessen the effects of aging skin made it a no brainer for me! I have begun a series of one hour sessions to see how they can supplement my HRT and improve symptoms that I and many women experience during the peri-menopause and menopause, and post menopause issues, and decided to blog the journey.

So How Have I got On?

Well, I am now on ‘dive’ 24 and although due to work commitments, I haven’t been able to do these in a strict “5 on – 2 off” daily protocol, but I can honestly say I am already feeling so much better! My ability to cope with stress has been the most significant indicator, my anxiety and sleep have improved and I can even see an improvement in the plumpness of the skin on my face! My clarity of thought has returned and I am feeling more in control of myself and my life than I have for many years! I have a few other physical issues such as psoriasis – and even this has been less angry and inflamed over the last month. Longer term, I am hoping there will be further improvement in my arthritis, knees and ankles and one day I may even be able to jog again!

Taking over an hour to lay in the chamber is certainly a commitment, and of course it has a substantial financial bearing. However, ‘cost v. good health’ is a persuasive consideration.

For me, this newfound ‘Me’ time has become invaluable to my mental health and as the physical improvements are ongoing; I have no doubt that using a mild Hyperbaric Chamber has improved my menopause symptoms significantly. I am enjoying the time to listen to podcasts, to enjoy music, to do some meditation and sometimes simply switch off and do nothing! For those who are concerned about potential claustrophobia, I can honestly say there is more room in this chamber than I had in my old mini! You can sit up, lie down, move about with ease. I always take a bottle of water, a book or music and of course pillows and a blanket for a good snooze! The ear popping during the initial pressurisation is the same as in the take-off or landing phase of a flight in a plane, and I soon got used to it. Other than that, there have been no side effects at all, and I feel safer in my HBOT cocoon than in a sauna or (back in the day) on a sun bed!

I plan to continue to monitor the effects and note any changes and developments.

As far as I know, there are yet to be any published studies conducted on mHBOT & the Menopause, however I will do another post when I have reached 40 sessions and let you know of any further improvements to both my physical and mental wellbeing.

If you would like to chat to me, or come and look at the clinic please don’t hesitate to make contact.